Before delving into the serious aspects, let’s acknowledge the evident: Eden Hazard possesses a substantial rear end. The retired Belgian footballer mesmerized fans throughout his tenures at Lille, Chelsea, and, to a lesser degree, Real Madrid. Endowed with a low center of gravity, impeccable balance, rapid footwork, and a sharp mind that confounded defenders, he cleverly utilized his prominent backside as a weapon to complement his other exceptional attributes.
Yaya Toure analyzed in 2021, “When the ball reaches Hazard’s feet, he already senses the approaching opponents, thus he waits until the last moment and then employs his backside to obstruct them.”
Former Man City midfielder added, “His ability to control and manipulate the ball using his backside, body, and thighs is truly remarkable,” referring to a quality that is often jestingly regarded in football but is actually a valuable technique for Hazard to shield himself from aggressive defenders. As far back as 2010, Lille’s youth academy director, Jean-Michel Vandam, defended the teenager, asserting, “Eden Hazard never seeks excuses when his performance on the field is lacking. He is a genuine competitor, not a complainer or a cheat who would start whining when tackled.”
Hazard demonstrated notable resilience. In 2014, during his Chelsea days, he posted a picture of his ankle after a Champions League match against Galatasaray, revealing the impact of a strong challenge from his former Lille teammate, Aurelien Chedjou, that tore his sock. Years later, a series of commercials with him conveyed the message: “They will leave their mark on me, but I will leave mine too.” Chelsea supporters grew accustomed to seeing him with blue and purple bruises on his legs post-matches, and ice packs were promptly applied when he was substituted.
In his prime, Hazard exuded attacking creativity. His agile hips bewildered defenders as he kept the ball glued to his feet. Navigating through tight spaces, he produced moments of genius that electrified fans. While earning legendary status among Chelsea supporters, his bravery also hindered his later success. The era before the rise of Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah saw Hazard’s peak performances unmatched in the Premier League. At times, his name was even mentioned in the same breath as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. However, unlike in the Spanish league where players like him received a certain level of protection from referees, Hazard constantly endured relentless challenges reserved for the most formidable players. After the 2014/15 season, with 113 fouls and 23 yellow cards against him, Jose Mourinho suggested Hazard surpassed even Cristiano but cautioned that he wouldn’t have the same longevity.
Mourinho urged, “Surely Hazard was fortunate not to suffer a serious injury. He could have been hurt many times, as I’ve seen players sustain fractures from less severe challenges than those he faced. I won’t name names, but Eden became the target of some very vicious fouls, so I would like the referees to offer him more protection.”
Despite his talent, Hazard’s approach to training often lacked diligence, as revealed by his former teammate Filipe Luis. The force behind his spectacular goals against Liverpool, West Ham, and Tottenham was someone who avoided defensive running, trained inadequately, and relaxed with video games just minutes before matches.
While he managed to navigate pain and continue to enjoy the game in his younger years, the accumulation of hits over time gradually diminished Hazard’s once swift abilities. His tenure in Spain following his transfer to Real Madrid in 2019 yielded limited success, with frequent injuries restricting him to 76 appearances across all competitions, resulting in only 7 goals and 12 assists. Commencing his professional career at 16, by the time he reached 30, Hazard’s peak was largely behind him. Marcin Bulka, a former Chelsea academy goalkeeper, shed light on Hazard’s unhealthy habits, stating, “He indulges in hamburgers and pizza frequently. He only cares about football and entertainment. At Chelsea, it wasn’t an issue, but in Real, particularly with his recent injury, he likely went overboard with his weight.”
Consequently, a player accustomed to deciding crucial matches found himself relegated to the role of an unused substitute after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2022. Despite fans’ expectations for him to justify the monumental €100 million investment, he failed to deliver on his promise during the subsequent season, playing a mere 392 minutes throughout the 2022/23 campaign, ultimately marking the end of his career. Though his footballing intellect persisted, his body had already begun to wane.
Nevertheless, Hazard’s footballing career will remain a cherished memory, representing a shining jewel in Belgium’s Golden Generation and a significant figure in the modern history of the Premier League. He was a player who enjoyed the game like a child yet had the ability to ignite the field according to his own imagination, leaving his mark comparable to some of the game’s most distinguished veterans.